Faking It

This post was inspired by Zoie’s post, “I Am A Fake,” on her blog, TouchstoneZ.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I would wake up before my three-year-old and try to write or read or just have a mug of tea before being “on” for the day. Invariably, I’d have just sat down at the kitchen table with my book or my journal or a steaming cup when she toddled bleary-eyed into the kitchen and said, “Good morning, Mommy!”

I would sigh and glare at her. I would give her a monotone “Good morning.” Then I would feel awful about myself. I did not like being this mom. I did not like greeting my daughter in a way that made it clear I really didn’t want to see her. She was my sweet girl, and I was a wicked, awful mommy.

So I decided to fake it.

The next morning when the world outside the window was still dark and my tea was still untouched and my daughter came into the kitchen, I put on a smile. I got up from the table and precariously knelt my bulbous body down to her level to give her a hug. I told her, “Good morning! I’m so happy to see you!”

The first few weeks that I did this, my daughter would stand with her arms at her sides while I hugged her, looking at me sideways from under her furrowed brow.

We both knew I was faking it.

At first I felt even worse about myself. I was faking being happy to see my child. What kind of a mother was I? Why could I not feel happy to see my daughter? And worse, I was in the process of bringing another baby into this family to experience my reprehensible parenting.

But I kept it up because I figured since it was a choice between pantomiming happy and expressing authentic unhappy, I’d rather be a big faker.

And then something amazing happened. One morning, my daughter came into the kitchen as usual, but this time when I said, “Good morning! I’m so happy to see you!” I really felt happy to see her. My smile was a real smile. I hugged her with tears in my eyes. I still hadn’t had a chance to write, but in this moment I was happy to see my daughter.

Five years later, I no longer have to kneel when I hug my daughter good morning; I just stand upright and rest my cheek on the top of her head, but most mornings I still really mean it when I say I’m happy to see her and her brother.  On days when I start to droop when I hear their footsteps in the hallway, I stop myself and think, Why not be happy to see my kids? Because I didn’t get done everything I wanted to before they woke up? There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to feel like I’ve finished everything I want to, anyway, so why not just let it not happen and let myself feel happy for the sweet little distractions I have for these few years?

So each morning I give my children and myself the gift of a hug and smile and an enthusiastic greeting. Then no matter where the day goes from there, at least we’ve started on a high note.

Have you ever faked it ’til you made it?

Drop by the yeah write weekly challenge grid for some great blog posts, all 600 words or less.

Regional Differences

The front-desk lady at the dance studio made my daughter cry.

I was in the back observing ten minutes of a dance class I’m considering for our son (yes, this is the same son who wears a sports bra; that’s a different post), and my spouse was with our kids in the waiting area. He tells the story like this:

Our daughter asked, “Can I go back and watch the class with my mom?”

The lady answered. “No. That’s just for your mom.”

Our daughter started crying.

“Why did she cry? Was the woman angry with her?” I asked.

“I couldn’t tell,” he said. “She might have been angry, or it might just have been the accent.” Read More

On Keeping My Dumb Phone

My spouse decided this week to take advantage of a work discount program and get a smartphone, and I don’t like it.

My phone has an animation of an aquarium. What does your phone have?

My phone has an animation of an aquarium. What does your phone have?

I have the Sanyo Katana flip phone I got for free in 2006. I know how to use it, and I know how to forget about it in my purse so that whenever I need it it’s gone dead and I have to plug it into the car charger in order to use it. And this is on a phone that holds a charge for a week. If I had a smartphone, I’d have to devote an entire to-do-list line item to remembering to recharge it.

In addition, smartphones…

Promote antisocial tendencies.

I’m not even talking about the way everyone’s face is stuck in a screen every moment their eyes aren’t actively engaged in seeing something else. I’m talking about how no one’s allowed to just have a conversation anymore. When someone says, “Who’s the guy who did the painting of the apple in front of the guy’s face?” there’s no more, “Oh, isn’t that Miró? A friend sent me a postcard with that painting on it one time, and she was really into Miró at the time.” There’s no more, “No, I think it’s Manet. I watched a t.v. documentary about him back in the late 90’s.”

There’s no more of that kind of exchange because someone’s always got a smartphone to fact-check. I have nothing against facts, but really, the point isn’t who the heck painted the picture of the apple-face guy (Magritte, for those of you without smartphones), it’s the discussion, the human connection that’s destroyed by a hand-held smart(ass)phone.

Discourage research and forward-planning.

Now that everyone can just e-mail or text each other all the time and look up restaurants on the fly, people just head out with only the barest skeleton of a plan. Chaos and anarchy just don’t work for me. I want to know where we’re going and when we plan to get there, and I want a half-dozen paper maps to consult if plans go awry.

But on the flip side, smart phones also…

Discourage independent discovery.

My spouse was making a beer run this weekend in an unfamiliar town in Maine, so he borrowed our friend’s smartphone to find the beer store our friend had looked up. Turns out he didn’t need the phone because there’s a little beer store right on the main road on the way to the other beer place, which he’d have figured out even without the phone.

But even if smartphones weren’t evil, I wouldn’t want one because I have no willpower. I have lots of willpower in other areas of my life. I can rock an elimination diet like nobody’s business, but I can’t help but check my e-mail during every remotely spare moment I have and jump down every rabbit hole I encounter along the way. And this is just with my laptop. If I had a smartphone, I would spend my entire life in Alice in Wonderland. Within two weeks, I’d be sitting on a giant mushroom smoking a hookah and giving passersby tangential Wikipedia-inspired responses to their direct questions.

And where would that leave my children?

Wherever it is, I know they’ll end up there eventually because it’s clear to me that smartphones are as inevitable as they are evil. Chances are, my face will be bathed in the bluish glow of a tiny screen by next summer. Until then, I’ll just keep complaining.

Written as part of the yeah write weekly challenge.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

I’m average.

I’m a regular mom, not a Supermom. I write and sing and play the flute, but I don’t stand out above the crowd. I’m not bad at these things, I’m just…average (except in height; there I’m below average). I get the job done—and I enjoy doing it—but I don’t have anything in particular to crow about.

Which leads me to wonder: Why do I blog? Read More

Fog

A little after six o’clock the other morning, I went out for my daily walk. I stepped out of the house and into thick fog.

This was new.

As I walked through the neighborhood, I found that the fog blunted all edges. The lines of the houses and the leaves of the trees were indistinct, the bird calls muffled. When I was a kid, I used to press my face up against the mist coming out of the humidifier that ran perpetually in my baby sister’s room. The fog in my nose had the same feel and smell of that humidifier air.

I crossed the street and couldn’t see more than ten yards in either direction. With the sharp edges of my senses shaved off, I stepped into the road trusting that approaching cars would have their lights on or that the sound of an engine would reach my ears through the fog in time for me to change my course.

Safely on the other side of the road, I thought how looking into that thick fog is similar to contemplating my future. I’m traveling familiar paths, and I have an idea of where I want to get to, but the here-to-there is obscured. I wondered why I felt so safe in the fog and so confident in my ability to detect danger and act on it in time, while the fog of uncertainty in my life leaves me anxious and clinging to the familiar.

Maybe the difference is speed. Fog is scarier when I’m driving. On foot, I was traveling slowly enough and with enough awareness that I was confident I could spot potential dangers before they were true threats.

Maybe the fog of my future frightens me because I’m traveling too quickly through my life and without enough awareness. If I slowed down and listened and looked and smelled, maybe I could let the uncertainty embrace me like the fog did on my walk. Maybe then I could feel the unknown brush against my skin and tickle my throat and condense on my hair and know that the path I’ve chosen, the one I’m traveling step by step, is the safe path and the right path for me, even if I can’t see beyond a few yards ahead.